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5 Strategies to fight off stress, anxiety and growing irritation during the current Coronavirus pandemic

Stay calm and fight off stress, anxiety, and irritation during Coronavirus quarantine

Or… “how to not go off on the people you love and stay calm when you are in quarantine together”

Between the stress, anxiety and uncertainty the coronavirus (Covid-19) has brought to everyone’s life and the added strain of working from home, self-isolating or self-distancing, it can be a struggle to stay patient and calm with our loved ones at home. It’s easy to slide into a permanent state of irritation and moodiness, particularly when the days stretch on and on. Even with the best of intentions, quarantine doesn’t always bring out the best in us. Nerves can get frazzled and tempers can grow shorter, no matter what our normal temperament’s baseline is.

But even in a crisis, we have control over some things. Namely, we can control our emotional state and we can work to show up as the best “self”, “parent” or “spouse” we can. Here are my top 5 tips to show up as the “best you.”

First, the obvious: Make sure you feel good physically. 

Some basic self-care will go a long way to control your emotional state. Make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep (that’s not optional – there is no substitute for sleep), fuel your body a wide variety of nutrients-rich foods (code word for increase your intake of fruits and vegetables both in number and amount to ensure you get both the macros and micronutrients your body needs to feel its best) and get a minimum amount of exercise to keep your immune system humming normally (try to do an hour per day of moderate intensity exercise –it will boost your mood and your immune system).

Beyond the basics, here are some tips to help you keep your patience and wrangle in your temper in the days ahead.

 1- Stand at the gates of your mind

Know yourself and use the strategies that works for you.  For some people, reading about the coronavirus and Covid-19 brings them a sense of knowledge they find reassuring or comforting. Knowing is better than not knowing. But for others, consuming this information only adds to their anxiety and overwhelm. Be honest with yourself and determine how much information you need. One strategy is to limit yourself to this type of news to once a day in the morning for instance. 

Another very powerful strategy is to be very selective as to where you get your information from. Social media and traditional news channels are not always the most credible source. Get your information from the most direct, neutral sources you can. The World Health Organization, the CDC or Johns Hopkins can provide you the facts you need without editorializing or promoting a political agenda.

Ultimately, for most of us, no matter how much we might crave information, “standing at the gates of our mind” means periodically taking a break from the barrage of news so we can detach and recharge.

 2- Don’t reinvent the wheel

Although this crisis is unprecedented, this is not the first time you have experienced stress. Trying out new coping strategies in the midst of turmoil can be daunting, so double down on the strategies that have worked for you in the past. 

If you know going on a run or working out has a calming effect on you (and it’s feasible), fit in a few extra sessions throughout your week to burn off some of that excess nervous energy. If meditating has been effective in the past, be more diligent at fitting meditation and mindfulness sessions into your daily routine. Keep your CEO Morning Routine to stay focused on your business and finding opportunities.

For some, getting up before everyone else in the house and doing something for yourself to stay centered is a very effective strategy. Whether it’s making yourself a cup of coffee and getting a little bit of alone time to center yourself, getting some fresh air and sunlight before the busyness of the day starts, or spending that time journalling or writing down what your goals are for the day, taking a little time for yourself first thing in the morning can make a big difference in how you approach the rest of your day. 

 3- Use a pattern interrupt to stop yourself from losing it in the heat of the moment. 

When you feel the growing irritation and you feel yourself getting angry, use a pattern interrupt to delay your response to the person you want to address.

One of the most effective way to do that is to do a self check of your emotions. Are you actually angry about the situation? Is something your spouse or children doing truly driving you crazy because it’s going against one of your internal rules? Or are you displacing tension you feel about something else and placing it on this situation. Taking a minute to stop and do this self-checkin of your emotions, forces you to step back from your immediate response and analyze what is really going on. It might be that you are ytuly annoyed about what is going on, or you may find that frustration has been building up inside of you all day and it’s not at all about your loved ones’ behavior. Regardless, taking stock of where you are in your head, gives you a chance to delay your response so that when you do respond it is more intentional and less reactionary.

At times, interrupting the pattern might mean stopping yourself short by focusing on gratitude or using humor to relieve the tension.  It might not be your instinctive response, but just like a muscle, it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced until it can become your default response which will buy you time until you can think it through.

For instance, before you go off on your 10 year old for barging into your conference call, take a deep breath (from your belly) — and a few seconds– to direct your mind to notice what is good around you. Mentally list what you are grateful for in that moment. What is good about this? What is funny about this? Relax your face, breathe and reframe your thinking. 

If you can feel the anger, frustration or irritation still lying underneath the surface, start a conversation with someone about an unrelated topic, or make a phone call to someone who matters to you. By forcing your mind to change gears and your body to adopt a softer demeanor, you will give yourself a fighting chance to regain control and perspective about the situation. 

Delay your reaction and response to frustration. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Instead of giving your kids a Time Out, give yourself a Time Out to regain control when your patience runs thin. 

4- Take action

Part of the growing restlessness and irritability that comes with being under stress for prolonged periods of time is that our bodies are designed to respond to stress by producing chemicals to reduce pain and prompt action. It makes sense from an evolutionary background, faced with a bear, the rush of adrenaline to escape immediate danger is a good thing. But that same physical response doesn’t serve us very well when we are under chronic stress and perpetually stuck in close quarters with our loved ones. 

Instead of fighting the biological urge to do something and respond, go with it and take action. In the moment that might mean finding the most immediate solution and removing the current stressor like closing (and locking) the door so you can focus on your call and delay addressing your child. Or it can mean harnessing your emotions and frustration, and focusing them on something you have control over like making an action plan for your business, or starting on a home project. 

 5- Cultivate an attitude of compassion and gratitude 

If you do lose your cool, remember that compassion towards yourself is just as important as showing compassions to those around you. Recognize you let your emotions get the best of you, take responsibility for your words and actions, own the shame and guilt that comes with disappointing yourself and hurting the people you love, recommit to showing up better, and give yourself some grace. 

These are trying times and often it’s the little things that set us off. It’s the child who leaves the lights on, it’s the spouse that takes the last drop of coffee or the dog that barks during a conference call. Allow for some irritability and emotionalism both in yourself and those who share space with you. Recognize that everyone under your roof is adjusting to a new situation and it’s natural for your 5 year old to want you to play with him in the middle of the day for instance. Afterall, until recently, your being home meant you were “off” and available to read a book or play. Practicing compassion and empathy each day can help you keep in mind that your loved ones are doing what they’re doing because they are trying to meet their needs, and not intentionally trying to irritate you or stop you from doing what needs to be done. 

It’s easier to let things go with a few simple words, “please forgive me, I didn’t mean to…” accompanied by a short phrase of why you were stressed. Kids forgive and forget so easily, take it easy on yourself too.

Over the longer term, focusing on something other than your own life, whether it be volunteering or helping neighbors for instance, can also help you harness that excess tension and use it to make a difference for your community. 

Helping others can give you an outlet and be an effective antidote to the feelings of powerlessness or frustration you might experience in the face of this pandemic. It can provide you with a sense of higher purpose from which you can draw strength and perspective when the crisis drags on. And it can be a powerful  “compared to what” that keeps you centered on what matters. 

When anger and frustration strike, remember the effective strategies and coping tools you have used in the past. Bring them to life again, adjust where you need and add any new ones to fill in the gaps. 

The Number 1 Red Flag That Your Marriage or Relationship Is Headed for Disaster

Life coaching is about personal development and personal growthGuys, if your wife stops talking, start worrying!

The topic of marriage and relationships consistently comes up in my coaching. I particularly enjoy working with clients on those issues relating to relationships because although marriage can be a great source of emotional turmoil and pain, it can also be the greatest source of happiness and feeling of connectedness one can experience. Being able to spot the earliest signs of trouble can help us make a course correction before it’s too late.

There are predictable patterns that point in the direction of disaster, but often, we as men, misinterpret the signals and assume our marriage is headed for fairer weather after a rough patch, instead of realizing we are headed for deadly waters.

One of those patterns looks like this…

A wife –not yours of course– is dissatisfied with something. She’s unhappy. Something is not working for her in the relationship. Maybe she’s not feeling heard, supported, cherished, or understood. And so, she talks. And she talks. She’s communicating and expressing her frustration or unhappiness.

Now if her partner is like most men, he’s not enjoying this process at all. She’s emotional and sometimes volatile, and it’s difficult to stay focused on the specific source of her unhappiness and not feel personally attacked. So her partner shuts down. He retreats in his proverbial cave. He may do that by tuning her out, physically leaving, or listening and quickly returning his focus on a friendlier topic. Of course, it does nothing to resolve the issue at hand, but let’s face it, running for the hills until she’s in a happier place can look very appealing at times!

If he continues to strive to avoid her emotionalism and consistently retreats to his cave until the coast is clear, his wife, feeling completely unheard, will grow more and more frustrated and she’s likely to continue expressing her unhappiness with more and more passion.

Until she stops.

On her side, this signals that the relationship is over. Emotionally, she has given up and disengaged. She’s done.

From his perspective, the relationship just took a turn for the better. He misinterprets this silence to mean that everything is OK. The “nagging and complaining” has stopped and there is peace! She seems to be doing things to make herself happy and she has ceased to focus on what’s not working in their marriage. Life is good again.

He could not be farther from the truth!

She’s planning her exit strategy! It may be quick or it make take years. But nevertheless she’s lost all hope that this marriage is workable and she’s preparing to walk. She might be going back to school or work if she wasn’t working outside the home previously or she might make career choices that will make the transition easier. She might find another love interest or become open to the idea, or she might shift her focus to more fulfilling family relationships like her children until the time is right.

When the day comes that she serves her husband divorce papers, he’s shocked. He thought things were great –maybe not great exactly, but good. This is coming out of the blue. Often, this is the point where he becomes very motivated to address what was not working in the marriage and he’s baffled to hear that she has no interest in repairing the marriage. She left emotionally a long time ago. She has worked through many of her feelings and although she may have more grieving to do, she’s way beyond turning back.

The irony here is that sometimes, this will be the trigger for him to change and adopt different behaviors and different beliefs. And if he moves on to another marriage, he may have become the man his first wife had hope he would be, which can be a source of sadness or anger for his ex-wife –but that’s another story.

The bottom line is that when it comes to marriage, silence is deadly, not golden. As uncomfortable as addressing the issues affecting our marriages may be, repeatedly running for the hills is often the surest way to get her to run for the door.

To your continued success,

James

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Tips For a Better Relationship…Think Zen

Stillness is what creates love. Movement is what creates life. To be still and still moving – this is everything. -Do Hyun Choe

In the stillness, we can most easily connect with our true self. Putting movement in our lives creates energy and emotion…uniting the two as one allows God to flow through us! That is how to make a difference in the world and live a life of purpose.

When we can appreciate all that our mate is right now in this moment, know they are enough and perfect for us to move through this life with, we can then lead, guide and move the relationship forward to create more, have more, be more, and do more because there is a foundation of unconditional love.

Look at your wife today and see that she is perfect in this moment. Do so with all of her strengths (which are your weaknesses as a man) and her weaknesses (which are your strengths…don’t play those against her!)…Tell her that she is enough right now in this moment. She is perfect in who she is and will become…Revel in her beauty and feminine energy.

Then lead and guide the relationship to have new experiences, new shared common interests, date her again…and see what happens in your relationship.

Tips For a Better Relationship…Stay On Your Purpose

As man in a relationship it is easy to forget that You are the Master of your Fate and the Commander of Your Soul.

It is so critical for the man to be on his purpose in life first in order to be strong, confident and lead effectively. It is on your shoulders to constantly remember and see what it good in your mate, to make the tough decisions, to stand in her need for constant certainty and be questioned on all you do. That needs to be balanced with not working to please her contstantly, or expect her to be more motherly towards you, or expecting her to be more like you by approaching things with logic and reason versus emotionalism.

You, as the man, in the relationship always lead by example, make her your number one woman but not your number one priority in life. Treat her with love and emotional support and always see what is good in her and affirm how she is enough and what she gives is enough. See and embrace her beauty and emotionalism! It is oxygen to a man on his purpose in life! Don’t be scared of her femininity…suck it in for it is life!

Have a great week commanding your ship through the seas to reach your next port! May it be exciting, fulfilling and adventurous. To remember that every day at sea is a good day can remind us to see every day as good too!

Focus On Your Relationship & Marriage: The Greatest Aphrodisiac

You are probably wondering, “Is it an oyster that he is talking about this week? Is it an ointment? Is it something sexy from that shop down the street?” Wrong answers, try again.

One morning last week I found myself in a deep conversation with my wife and it was going down a direction that I was a little scared to go. We were not arguing, because we never argue in our relationship, we just have “opportunities for discussion.” (or at least, that’s what I choose to call them!)

We were having an opportunity to discuss something that brings all couples closer together, our finances. There is an old psychological test that was performed where they put a man in a room with a crying baby and his first reaction was to leave the room but for a woman their first reaction is to soothe the child. Well, my first reaction when the opportunity for discussion on finances came up was to not only leave the room, but run like away like Roger Bannister.

But, instead of just listening to my wife, (some guys only pretend to listen), I found myself engaging in the discussion and really disclosing some personal fears, ideas, and thoughts on the subject that I had never shared with her before. As for that matter, I had never even really stopped long enough myself to verbalize them to myself.

As we worked our way through the discussion and arrived at a solution was a deeper level of trust, respect, and commitment to one another. We both had a deeper understanding of what the other really thought, felt and believed. We accomplished this level of deep connection by providing the one another the chance to be safe while opening up and sharing.

I have always loved my wife dearly and it seems there is a pattern that I am most attracted to her after our opportunities for discussion. And reflecting on it now, it does not really seem to matter whether it was a topic that we agree on or not. Whether it is something that makes up both laugh, smile and enjoy, or something that brings frustration, challenge and disagreement, it doesn’t really matter.

It seems to me that the greatest aphrodisiac is communication. Yes, simply stated, open, safe, talking and listening. Truthful talking and listening with respect for your lovers thoughts, ideas, and deepest feelings. When was the last time you your and your lover talked in a deep intimate moment? When was the last time you really talked and listened in an intimate setting?

I encourage you to do so this week. See what happens! You may find yourself more attracted to your mate than ever. Don’t just listen…engage your partner in an intimate discussion about anything. I will leave the rest of the details to you.